Selection of healthy food options contributes to reductions in chronic disease risks.  The drivers of food choices has a genetic component that may be affected by genetic variants (SNPs) of genes involved in taste perception.  However, it is not currently known how the combinations of taste-related genetic variants influence intake.  Work by Gervis and colleagues addressing this void in our understanding is published in the February 2023 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

Data for this study was derived from samples collected on 6230 Framingham Heart study participants (mean age of 50 years and 54% female).  Food frequency questionnaires identified food group intakes for the subjects, and polygenic taste scores were derived for tastes (bitter, sweet, umami, salt, and sour) with > 2 related SNPs.

The polygenic taste scores for bitter, sweet, umami, and sour tastes included 9 bitter, 19 sweet, 2 umami, 2 sour, and 1 salt SNPs.  Whole grain intakes were lower with each additional allele for higher bitter perception.  Similarly, red/orange vegetable intakes were lower with the presence of higher umami perception.  Two novel bitter-related SNPs were associated with whole grain intake and one novel umami-related SNP was associated with red/orange vegetable intake.  The authors concluded that taste-related genes for bitter and umami were associated with food choices, and thus knowledge about taste-related genes may assist with personalization of healthy dietary guidance.


Gervis JE, Ma J, Chui KKH, McKeown NM, Levy D, Lichtenstein AH. Bitter- and umami-related genes are differentially associated with food group intakes: the Framingham Heart Study. Journal of Nutrition, Volume 153, Issue 2, February 2023, Pages 483-492.

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